In Hohenschwangau near Füssen in the Allgäu region, in the midst of a picture-perfect landscape, sits a building of incomparable splendour and worldwide fame: Neuschwanstein Castle, built between 1869 and 1886 by order of the legendary Bavarian fairytale king Ludwig II. The imposing dream castle is considered Germany's most famous sight and attracts well over a million people every year.
According to a recent survey of foreign tourists to Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle near Füssen in the Allgäu region is the most popular sight in Germany. From the outside, the magnificent castle resembles an imposing castle from the Middle Ages, and inside it is opulently furnished with lots of gold, glitter, velvet and valuable art treasures in huge halls. King Ludwig II, who spent large parts of his childhood and youth in the neighbouring residential castle of Hohenschwangau, had Neuschwanstein built as his idealised idea of a perfect knight's castle and as a personal world of legends and fairy tales that was to serve as a private refuge for the reclusive monarch. He dedicated the castle to his friend, the famous composer Richard Wagner, whose works, which repeatedly refer thematically to the world of legends and fairytales, he greatly admired. In the end, the construction of Neuschwanstein, which began in 1869, dragged on far longer than initially planned and the king lived only a few years in the castle, which was not yet completely finished, before he died under mysterious circumstances on Lake Starnberg in 1886. A short time later, Neuschwanstein was opened to tourists and developed into a world-famous and popular attraction. The Disney studios were inspired by Neuschwanstein for their Sleeping Beauty castles and in 2007 the magnificent building even made it to the final selection in the vote for the new Seven Wonders of the World. Today, more than one and a half million people come to Schwangau every year to visit the dream castle and let themselves be carried away into a fantastic world of romance and legends and fairytales.
Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the middle of a picturesque mountain landscape on a site where two small castles stood in the Middle Ages. King Ludwig II discovered the castle ruins as a child during his frequent excursions to the beautiful mountain landscape around Hohenschwangau Castle. It was probably already then that his plan matured to one day have a castle built here in the style of a magnificent knight's castle. After his accession to the throne and after he had the financial means at his disposal, he realised his dream. In the meantime, he had developed a great fascination for the world of legends and fairy tales, which played an important role in the works of the composer Richard Wagner. Thus, countless motifs from the world of legends and fairy tales can be found in Neuschwanstein, and the castle was also intended to serve the monarch as an inhabitable theatre set, so to speak, in which he later even had Wagner's operas performed just for himself. Since the king kept expressing new design wishes after construction began, Neuschwanstein became much larger than planned and its completion was delayed for a long time.
Neuschwanstein Castle stretches over a length of about 150 metres on the top of a rocky ridge and consists of several structures. From the outside, it reflects King Ludwig's romantic ideal of a knight's castle and, with its borrowings from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, it is typical of 19th century architecture. The more than 200 interior rooms are decorated with ornate murals and splendidly furnished with valuable furniture, art treasures and golden utensils. The largest room in Neuschwanstein is the impressive Singers' Hall, designed on the model of the Wartburg Singers' and Festival Hall, decorated with themes from Wagner operas and containing a tribune-like gallery and a stage divided by arcades. The second largest room is the Throne Room, which was modelled on the All Saints' Court Church of the Munich Residenz, is particularly sumptuously furnished and reflects Ludwig's self-image as a ruler by the grace of God. In addition to the interiors, all of which are well worth seeing, the technology used in Neuschwanstein Castle is also impressive, as it was ahead of its time. For example, there were already telephone lines, battery-operated bell systems and toilets with automatic flushing. Neuschwanstein Castle was the private retreat and personal dream world of the fairytale king, who was considered a recluse. Here he took refuge in the poetic world of the Middle Ages and in a romantic realm full of pomp and grandeur.
Visits to Neuschwanstein Castle are possible almost daily, except on some public holidays, in the form of a guided tour lasting about 35 minutes. Tickets are available from the Hohenschwangau Ticket Centre. It is a good idea to visit both royal castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, one after the other. If you would like to learn more about the mysterious Bavarian fairytale king Ludwig II and his impressive dream castles, you should visit the Museum of the Bavarian Kings on the shores of the Alpsee. In this modern, luxuriously equipped museum, you can learn a lot of interesting facts about Ludwig II and his castles in an entertaining and interactive way. There is also a museum shop where you can buy numerous articles with Ludwig's portrait and the picture of Neuschwanstein.